March 21, 2014 00:00 By The Straits Times Asia News N
Every effort is being made to locate missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 but the "credible" sighting of possible wreckage was yet to be confirmed, acting Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said yesterday.
The search for the missing plane entered its 13th day yesterday and efforts were redirected to a location some 2,500 kilometres southwest of Perth after Australia said two objects – one estimated at 24 metres long – had been spotted in the southern Indian Ocean.
It could take up to 48 hours to confirm that debris spotted by satellite belonged to Flight MH370, an expert said.
Michael Daniel, a retired US Federal Aviation Administration official, told Singapore’s The Straits Times: “If they have a strong feeling or indication that the debris belongs to the aircraft, one of the first things authorities will do is drop sonar buoys in the water.”
Search planes dispatched
Daniel said: “If the black box is there, the buoys should be able to pick up the signals. This could take up to 48 hours, but it all depends on how near or far the ships and other assets are” from the site.
At a daily press briefing in Malaysia, Hishammuddin said Prime Minister Najib Razak had received a call from his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott yesterday morning to brief him on the latest findings. He said the sighting, while credible, was yet to be confirmed as MH370.
A high-level team was set to leave for Beijing last night to help the Chinese families of missing passengers, Hishammuddin added.
Describing it as the “best lead we have”, Australian Maritime Safety Authority official John Young told a press briefing in Canberra that the objects were “bobbing up and down over the surface”.
Australia has sent four search aircraft – including one each from the US and New Zealand – and two ships to the area where the debris was located, while a merchant ship has also been asked to go there.
It takes four hours for an aircraft flying out of Perth to reach the location. Abbott told Parliament the images represented “new and credible information” but stressed that the link with Flight MH370 had still to be confirmed.
Families of the passengers aboard the plane were to be briefed on the latest findings last night by Malaysia investigators.
Selamat Omar, the father of Malaysian engineer and MH370 passenger Khairul Selamat, told The Straits Times: “We are still waiting for verification from the authorities. If it’s really MH370, we will accept that fate.”
Wen Wancheng, whose son was a passenger on the flight, said in Beijing: “My son is still alive. I don’t believe the news.”